Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Detroit Lions vs Tennessee Titans: DET -3 (5Dimes)

Markets

Amazingly, the Titans were actually short favorites in this game in the look-ahead line, but now the Lions are field goal favorites.  Early money has confirmed the move and some places are even taking it off the 3 as I write this.  I don't expect the -3 to be available the rest of the week.  If I was setting this line, I'd have the Lions favored by 4 at the minimum.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Last year the Titans were one of the pleasant surprises of the season.  They seemed to be a team on the rise and sharp money bet the 'over' on their season win total for 2012.  Personally, I wasn't sold before the season and I'm even less sold after two games of the schedule.

When you take a closer look at their success last year a few things stand out in the stats.  They were amazing in their red zone efficiency, both on offense and defense.  They were also near the top of the league in special teams and offensive line blocking.

Fast-forward to present day and we aren't seeing anything close to that production this year.  In fact, they are not only worse after two games, but they are near the bottom of the league in those categories. They also rank really low on third down on both sides of the ball.

With no Marc Mariani and an unpolished Jake Locker, things could get even worse as the season unfolds.

Ready for Prime-Time?

I have the spotlight on two positions here.

1) Quarterback

I agreed that it was time to go with Jake Locker this year, but not because I thought it would make them better this season. I thought it was the right move for the long-term.  The problem is he didn't do a single thing in the preseason or training camp to earn the job and he sure doesn't look ready to handle the starting quarterback duties just yet.

There are some promising signs though.  He is very good outside the pocket.  The athleticism alone is going to put pressure on defenses and keep plays alive.

The downside is he is so erratic. You never know if he's going to hit a receiver 25 yards down field on the numbers, or sail it 10 yards high into the arms of a defensive back.  And it happens far too often.

2) Cornerbacks

The Titans made a pretty bold move by letting Cortland Finnegan walk this offseason.  They showed a lot of faith in Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty.  It could work out in the long-run, but I haven't been impressed thus far.  I'm also not convinced there is much quality depth at the position either.  This week they have their work cut out for them as Matthew Stafford and company are no doubt going to go after them.

Rushing Advantage...Detroit?

Who would have thought that we could be debating whether or not the Lions have a better rushing attack after two weeks of the season.  I do admit that I bought into the offseason hype about Chris Johnson.  He came into camp in great shape, a better attitude, and flashes of what could be in the preseason.

Part of the problem is that the Titans have faced two pretty stout front sevens so far and it didn't help that they fell behind by double digits in both contests either.  Having said that, is there any reason to believe they are about to break out the dominating ground game anytime soon?  Can they flip the switch and overwhelm the Lions?

We'll find out on Sunday because the Lions aren't the greatest defensive team, but I don't think they are as bad as advertised either. Yes they have big problems in their secondary thanks to injuries, but their front seven hasn't been a huge liability either.  The defensive line is still a beast to handle and I expect them to keep Locker on the run this week.

Perhaps Chris Houston, Louis Delmas, or Bill Bentley return this week, but we won't know more until later in the week.

The guy who will be back is Mikel LeShoure. He will be a welcomed addition and a nice compliment to Kevin Smith.  I liked what I saw of LeShoure in the preseason and I think he could go a long way in providing a bit more balance for this offense.

Bottom Line

This isn't a ringing endorsement of the Lions, because they clearly have some issues, but this is more of a fade of the Titans than anything else.  Outside of Kamerion Wimbley, there isn't much to get excited about on their defense.  The offense doesn't inspire much optimism either.  It might not be pretty, but I like the Lions to put up enough points for the cover this week.

NFL Pick: DET -3.

The rest of my Week 3 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.